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Forget Turkey. It's Lettuce You Need to Worry About Now

The CDC issues a broad alert to avoid romaine after E. coli sickens dozens

Romaine lettuce sitting on a cutting board.

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If you've got romaine lettuce in your fridge, chuck it now. That’s part of the strong advice given this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a broad alert against eating the lettuce — in any form — as they investigate possible contamination with a dangerous type of E.Coli.

With investigators unsure of where the contaminated lettuce came from, and with 32 people now sick and 13 hospitalized, the agency is recommending that all romaine be avoided — and that includes any that’s part of a salad mix, whether bagged or served in a restaurant, and any that you have at home, regardless of when you purchased it. The agency's advice was also clear in saying that you should toss all heads or leaves that remain in your fridge, even if you’ve already eaten from a package with no ill effects.

In short, with no common “grower, supplier, distributor, or brand of romaine lettuce” identified, it all has to go. 

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The agency also advised consumers to wash and sanitize any refrigerator surfaces that might have held romaine lettuce. The abundance of caution stems from investigators in Canada finding that among 18 sick people there, the “DNA fingerprint” was the same type of E. coli involved in the large E. coli outbreak in the U.S. last spring. That outbreak was ultimately traced back to greens grown in the Yuma, Ariz., region.

The strain involved in that outbreak, which ultimately spread to 36 states and killed five people, produces a toxin that can cause hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure that hits older Americans especially hard. One of those hospitalized so far in this suspected outbreak has developed the condition.

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